Long hours, low pay at factory used by Ivanka Trump's clothing-maker

A shoe factory in Guangdong, China, where about 100,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump shoes have been made over the years.
A shoe factory in Guangdong, China, where about 100,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump shoes have been made over the years.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Workers at a factory in China used by the company that makes clothing for Ms Ivanka Trump's fashion line and other brands worked nearly 60 hours a week to earn wages of little more than US$62 (S$86) a week, according to a factory audit released on Monday.

The factory's 80 workers knit clothes for the contractor, G-III Apparel Group, which has held the exclusive licence to make the Ivanka Trump brand's US$158 dresses, US$79 blouses and other clothes since 2012. The company also makes clothes for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and other brands.

Ms Trump has no leadership role in G-III and the report did not give the factory's name or location or say whether it was working on Ivanka-brand products at the time of the inspection.

Inspectors with the Fair Labor Association, an industry monitoring group whose members include Apple and Nike, found two dozen violations of international labour standards during a two-day tour of the factory last October, saying in a report that workers faced daunting hours, high turnover and pay near or below China's minimum wage.

The inspection offers a rare look at the working conditions of the global manufacturing machine that helped make Ms Trump's fashion brand a multi-million-dollar business.

Its release also comes as United States President Donald Trump's daughter has sought to cast herself as a champion of workplace issues and a defender of her father's "buy American, hire American" agenda. Ms Ivanka Trump, whose book Women Who Work debuts next week, was in Germany on Tuesday for public discussions about global entrepreneurship and empowerment.

"We can add billions to the global economy by creating an enabling environment, increasing women's labour force participation and business ownership and improving the productivity of their work," she wrote in a Financial Times essay on Monday.

Her company declined to comment on the factory inspection. Messages left with G-III were not returned.

Now an official adviser to her father's White House, Ms Trump stepped down from her management role, but retains an ownership interest in her name-brand company.

Its assets were moved into a trust that is overseen by her husband's siblings. She is the sole beneficiary of the trust, which is valued at more than US$50 million.

Chinese factories are by far the dominant suppliers for Ivanka clothes, although G-III also works with manufacturers across Vietnam, Bangladesh and South America. G-III factories overseas have shipped more than 110 tonnes of Ivanka-brand blouses, skirts, dresses and other garments to the US since October, shipping data shows.

The clothing line licensed by the President's private business is also almost entirely made in foreign factories. He last week signed an executive order that he said would push the government to "aggressively promote and use American- made goods and to ensure that American labour is hired to do the job".

Two inspectors from SMT- Global, a third-party monitoring group, inspected the factory one month before Mr Trump's election victory.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'Long hours, low pay at factory used by Ivanka Trump's clothing-maker'. Print Edition | Subscribe